$22.7 million already given to state campaigns for fall elections

Voters may be months away from being asked whether grocery stores can sell full-strength beer and wine, local governments can ban hydraulic fracturing or the state will increase the minimum wage. But state campaign contributions are already rolling in by the millions to committees fighting for these issues.

In the first quarter of 2016, campaigns, whether for candidates or issues, took in more than 29,000 contributions totaling $22.7 million. These amounts do not include contributions made to presidential, U.S. House or Senate candidates.

Monday was the deadline for filing first quarter campaign finance reports. Most of the money is coming from the oil and gas industry, which is shelling out big bucks to fight ballot measures that would allow local governments to ban fracking.

The anti-fracking group Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence pulled in the biggest first quarter contributions, $6.3 million from Jan. 1 through April 27. 

Anadarko Petroleum wrote the biggest checks, totalling $2.65 million, with Noble Energy coming in close second at $2.5 million. PDC Energy, an independent natural gas and oil company, threw in $500,000.  

The biggest checks written by the committee went to Pac/West, an Oregon-based government relations firm that provides consulting services to political action committees. The firm received more than $1 million in the first four months of 2016 for consulting services.

Pac/West’s biggest client in Colorado is Coloradans For Responsible Energy Development, which runs anti-fracking, pro-oil-and-gas commercials.

Mark Truax, who manages the Denver office for Pac/West, joined the firm in January after spending three years with Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, which was set up by Anadarko and Noble Energy.

Pac/West raked in another $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2016 from Your Choice Colorado, which supports a potential ballot measure to allow full-strength beer and wine sales in grocery stores. Your Choice Colorado pulled in $4.2 million in cash and noncash contributions in the first four months of this year.

Those who oppose full-strength beer and wine sales aren’t exactly hurting for cash. The group Keep Colorado Unique is backed by a coalition of the state’s largest liquor stores. Another opponent to full-strength beer and wine sales in grocery stores, Keep Colorado Independent, also known as Keep Colorado Local, kicked in $1.1 million in the last quarter. Large retailers such as Applejack Liquors in Wheat Ridge contributed $250,000.

The largest expense, $3 million, went to Joe Slade White Communications in New York for advertising design and buys. White was named the national Democratic strategist of the year in 2014. He’s worked for then-U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and on a successful 2008 campaign to defeat a right-to-work ballot measure in Colorado. White may be best known as the media strategist for Vice President Joe Biden, for whom he has worked for the past two decades. Biden’s sister, Valerie, is the executive vice president at White Communications.

Those who support a metro-Denver area ballot measure to reauthorize the Scientific, Cultural and Facilities District donated more than $1 million toward that effort. And every contribution to Citizens for Arts to Zoo came from an SCFD organization, although most of the money came from the five groups that get the bulk of SCFD funding.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, a Tier 1 group, put in more than $250,000. The Denver Zoo contributed $243,000. The Denver Art Museum donated $208,000. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts gave $182,000. And the Denver Botanic Gardens gave $118,000.

The largest expenditures, totaling $26,000, went to Ciruli & Associates, headed by pollster Floyd Ciruli.

A committee working to defeat Amendment 69, known as “Coloradans for Coloradans,” received more than $1 million in the first four months of 2016. The biggest contributions came from healthcare giants such as Anthem, SCL Health and Davita, totaling more than $700,000. That included a $10,000 contribution from Children’s Hospital.

Coloradans for Coloradans wrote its biggest check, $58,000, to Global Strategy Group of New York City for research.


Photo credit: Andrew Magill, Creative Commons, Flickr.